Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Mansfield 66/67

My notes on the documentary.


Was pneumatic blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield a natural witch whose early death in a car crash was the result of a curse placed on her lawyer boyfriend by self-styled head of the Church of Satan?  Almost certainly not, admits John Waters – who, as so often, is paradoxically the most sensible and humane interviewee in a documentary otherwise awash with wild-eyed weirdies of one stripe or another – but some part of pop culture really wishes all the stories were true.  Documentarians Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole concentrate on the last years of the cult diva – groomed as a replacement for Marilyn Monroe, she read on the CinemaScope screen as a living cartoon of the sex symbol – after her big Fox contract was a thing of the past and after the dissolution of her marriage to muscleman Mickey Hargitay – when she was doing dinner theatre with Mamie Van Doren and seemed to be drawn into the circle of LaVey, another bizarro celebrity more famous for pantomime behaviour and costuming than anything approaching serious devil-worship.  As an incarnation of evil, one interviewee says, LaVey was closer to Count Chocula than Charles Manson.


With enthusiastic but mixed-blessing musical interludes, a cartoon dramatisation of an incident involving a lion, input from Tippi Hedren (who brings in an Exorcist connection – one of her lions was named Billy after William Peter Blatty) and Kenneth Anger (who put Mansfield’s cleavage on the cover of Hollywood Babylon), some speculative academic business about feminism and celebrity culture, snippets of Mansfield’s movies and other appropriate cinema (Rosemary’s Baby, The Devil’s Rain) and an occasional moment of insight or pathos relating to the life and career of a gifted comedienne who only Frank Tashlin (an animator) really made good use of in her stardom days (in The Girl Can’t Help It and, to a lesser extent, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?).  It’s a freewheeling documentary that goes off on all sorts of mostly entertaining tangents.  Also brought into the party – Mary Woronov, Dolly Read (of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and pop star Marilyn.  The sad ending is conveyed by a clip from the Jayne Mansfield Story TV movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger (name mispelled) and Loni Anderson as Mickey and Jayne …



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